The Oakland Police Department’s new chief spoke exclusively with NBC Bay Area about the violence against Asian seniors, a spike in homicides, sideshows and how he plans to turn it all around.
“The things we’ve seen in Chinatown has been alarming to all of us,” said LeRonne Armstrong.
Alarming because we’ve seen attacks on Asian seniors and what’s even more worrying, Chinatown merchants are arming themselves and fighting back.
On Monday night, a liquor store owner at 9th and Franklin fired a warning shot when he saw someone getting robbed.
“We’re just asking people not to attempt to take these things into their own hands,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been making my presence known in Chinatown and making adjustments there. I've been making my presence known in east Oakland as well.”
Armstrong said this week has been a “difficult week.”
With only eight days under his belt as the top cop, his focus is on being chief for the entire city.
“I understand the incidents in Chinatown but I understand the incidents that continue to happen throughout our city,” he said.
Eighteen people have been killed in Oakland this year, compared to only three the same time last year.
“I think the pandemic is taking a huge toll on the normal way we address violence I think it exacerbates anxiety in our community,” Armstrong said. “It leads to confrontations we aren’t used to seeing result in violence.”
A ceasefire prevention unit where officers met with people before trouble happened had to be cut because of COVID-19 and budget cuts.
The city slashed $15 million from the department’s overtime spending, which Armstrong says is hampering the department’s ability to keep the peace.
Sideshows are now on his plate.
“We know it’s effected Richmond, San Francisco, Fremont, San Jose, so really working with other agencies so we can come together to combat sideshows,” the chief said.
It’s easier said than done, he said. Especially when you're faced with a community cry of defunding the police -- something he doesn’t agree with.
“I believe in reallocating the proper resources. I believe that there’s some body that can do something other than police then they should be funded and supported,” Armstrong said.
So far, the chief has gotten the support from his community.
“I think the most gratifying moment is I dreamed about this moment and now it’s here,” he said.